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feeding and nutrition

Breastfeeding pain

Advice on how to alleviate breast pain from breastfeeding

Breastfeeding your baby will provide them with the best start in life...

Our midwife and breastfeeding expert Sharon Broad answers your questions on breastfeeding.

At a glance

  • Finding the right position can help with any pain
  • Speak to your GP, midwife or health visitor if you're struggling
breastfeeding-q-and-a

Getting help with breastfeeding

Finding the right position and getting your tiny baby latched on takes practice and might drive you slightly mad to begin with. But getting it right will mean breastfeeding soon becomes a relaxing, bonding experience for you and your baby.

Breastfeeding isn’t always easy so it’s worth asking for coaching until you’ve got it right. Lots of people can help, like your GP, midwife or health visitor. Many new mums enjoy taking their baby to a breastfeeding support group and practising there. You can also try the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212. When you get it right, you will be so glad you did.

Sore or cracked nipples when breastfeeding

If your nipples start cracking or bleeding, there are many ways you can help protect them:

  • smear a tiny bit of white soft paraffin or purified lanolin onto any cracks (not the whole nipple) to help them heal and stop scabbing over
  • after the feed, squeeze a drop or two of your milk and gently rub it into your skin
  • change your breast pads at each feed (ideally avoiding pads with plastic backing)
  • let your nipples dry before putting your bra back on
  • avoid soap - it can dry out your skin
  • wear a cotton bra - so air can freely circulate

Blocked ducts and mastitis

If you find a small, tender lump in your breast, you might have a blocked milk duct. Catch it quickly though and you can hopefully avoid mastitis - inflammation of the breast. There are a few key signs of mastitis:

  • hot, tender boobs
  • a red sore patch of skin
  • you feel unwell, with flu-like symptoms
  • you feel achy, tired and tearful
  • a high temperature

Mastitis can get worse quickly, but the best thing is to keep breastfeeding and try a few simple changes to send it packing:

  • check your baby is in the right position (yes that again!)
  • feed your baby more often
  • feed your baby on the tender breast first
  • if your breasts still feel full after a feed, or your baby can’t feed, try expressing some milk by hand to relieve the fullness
  • try warming your breast before a feed, using warm flannels or a bath or shower
  • during feeds, boost milk flow by gently stroking the lumpy or tender area, moving towards your nipple with your fingertips
  • get as much rest as possible – ideally crashing out in bed if you can
  • if you can, take a painkiller like paracetamol or ibuprofen

If you don’t feel better within 12 to 24 hours, or you start feeling worse, contact your GP or healthcare professional who may need to give you antibiotics.

Breastfeeding and thrush

If everything was going swimmingly, then suddenly your nipples feel sore and pink, you or your baby may have thrush - a fungal infection. You can keep transferring it between the two of you, so if your baby has it in their mouth you’ll need cream for your nipples - or you might want to take an oral thrush tablet to stop you getting it. If the symptoms don’t go away, it’s best to ask your health visitor or GP for advice.

Breastfeeding and tongue-tie

Some babies are born with ‘tongue-tie’ , where there’s a tight piece of skin between the underside of their tongue and the floor of their mouth. It can make it very hard for your baby to feed, but luckily it’s easily treated. Just ask your midwife, health visitor or GP for advice.

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At a glance

  • Finding the right position can help with any pain
  • Speak to your GP, midwife or health visitor if you're struggling
All babies are different and your baby may have some days when they feed more than others

Breastfeeding pain